Interview Alice Hoffman – The Dovekeepers

Ed Nissink for Orlando Publishers

You wrote that your first visit to Masada was a harrowing experience that has inspired you to write this book. What exactly did you find so moving?

A: At Masada I felt the nearness of the past, and felt as though I could heart the voices of the women who had lived there so long ago.

What did you find the most interesting and fun in writing this book?

A: I loved telling the story from the point of view of four very different women – each one is very different, and it was fun to switch perspectives.

Did you face any difficulties while writing this book? If so, could you give some examples?

A: I realized part of the way through that I could research the novel forever and still have more to learn. I simply couldn’t learn everything about the ancient world, so I decided to focus on my characters and their lives.

Is there a character in the book that suits you – with whom you feel connected? And if so, who is it and what is the reason you feel connected?

A: I still feel connected to all of the characters – they have really stayed with me in a very deep way. If I had to choose one character who meant the most to me, I would have to say Yael, who changes so much during the course of the novel.

Does history in general and about Israel in particular play an important role in your life? If so, how?

A: I didn’t feel connected to the history of ancient Israel until I began to research and write about that time period.

You describe the hardships of Jael in the desert very evident and detailed. How did you accomplish?: Is it your imagination or did you experience hardships yourself?

A: I visited the area of Masada during the heat of summer, and so I had some sense of the atmosphere. I returned during the winter so I could again have a sense of the weather. Some of the detail came from my research, but much came from imagining what a life led at the fortress would be there.

Jael is emerging as a strong woman, a lioness, under the pressure of the prevailing laws that demands submission of a woman. Is that power also a theme in your own life?

A: I think I wrote the book so that I might learn from these four women, and certainly they did teach me a great deal about survivorship.

The book mentions some magic – used by Sjira, but also by others. What is the role of magic in your life?

A: For me magic and literature are braided together. I was surprised to find magic so pervasive in the ancient world. Magic, religion, and medicine were all interwoven.

There is also an important role for rituals in the book., You wrote very credible about it and you almost described them casually What do rituals mean to you?

A: Rituals don’t figure into my own personal life, but I think in the ancient world they were a touchstone for all people in all faiths.

Throughout the book it is repeatedly pointed out how women understand and feel each other wordlessly, they often know what is happening. Do you recognize this kind of intuition yourself? Leads your intuition you through life? How much value do you attach to intuition?

A: Intuition can be found between most people who are emotionally attached. I do think people should pay attention to their own intuition, their of inner sense of the world.

The strong bond that occurs between women is convincingly reflected in the book. Is it a band you recognize yourself? How?

A: Many of my closest bonds have been with women, with family and friends. Certainly, in the ancient world women had a separate world of ritual and experience. In some ways, I think this is true today for modern women in their relationships.

Besides the sisterly bond between women, there is also the bond between grandmother and grandchildren. How does this bond reflect in your own life?

A: I was raised by a single mother, and was very close to my grandmother – they were the biggest I influences in my life and so it makes sense that I often write about the bonds between women.

What was the hardest thing in writing this book, and why?

A: The hardest part was how huge a canvas I was writing about — there was so much research, and even more importantly, I wanted to do justice to the story of these ancient women who couldn’t tell their own stories. That felt like a big responsibility.

As each of the four women tell their own story: is there in addition to the main story, a common aspect in their lives; a theme that binds them?

A: I think the theme that binds them is their decision to do their best to survive. Ultimately, this is a story of survival, and of lost, and also of the love they all share for each other and for the children in their lives.

You wrote the story from four different points of view (the four women); still the storylines come together seamlessly, which is beautiful done. Is that a writing style you use in more of your books? And what difficulties and pitfalls does this writing style bring?

A: I haven’t before written from four points of view in one novel. I wanted each woman to come alive with her own unique voice. In the end these voices come together to form one story. It was difficult, but I also enjoyed it – and am using the technique of separate voices in the new novel I’m currently working on.

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